Women supporting the farmers' agitation reach Rohtak toll plaza on Rohtak-Delhi road, in Haryana on January 17. (Manoj Dhaka/Hindustan Times)
Women supporting the farmers' agitation reach Rohtak toll plaza on Rohtak-Delhi road, in Haryana on January 17. (Manoj Dhaka/Hindustan Times)

SC tells Delhi Police to decide on farmers’ Jan 26 tractor rally

The apex court said the decision should be taken by the Delhi Police as the entry of farmers into the national Capital was a law and order problem
By Abraham Thomas
UPDATED ON JAN 18, 2021 04:27 PM IST

Entry of farmers into Delhi is a law and order problem and any decision in this regard should be taken by the Delhi Police, said the Supreme Court on Monday.

The statement was made by a three-judge bench headed by CJI SA Bobde while hearing an application filed by Delhi Police to direct farmers not to disrupt the Republic Day celebrations in the Capital on January 26.

The matter will now be heard on January 20 when the bench dealing with petitions against the farmer protests will be available. This bench, which last assembled on January 12, comprisesCJI Bobde and Justices AS Bopanna and V Ramasubramanian. On that day, the court had stayed the implementation of the three farm laws under challenge and formed a four-member expert committee to study the concerns raised by the farmer unions and submit its recommendations to the court in eight weeks.

Also read | Decoding fine print of Supreme Court order on farm laws

Before adjourning the case, CJI said, “The question of entry (of farmers) into Delhi is a law and order problem. You (Delhi Police) are free to invoke your powers. We have told you earlier too that we cannot be the first authority to determine this. You have enough power under the Police Act to determine who should or should not be allowed entry, what terms and conditions are to be enforced and what should be the numbers.”

Attorney General KK Venugopal and Solicitor General Tushar Mehta appeared in the matter for Centre.

Venugopal asked the court to make that clarification in its order. He said this was necessary as the matter is being considered by the top court even as lakhs of persons gathered at Capital’s borders as part of the farmer protests want to enter Delhi.

There is also the concern of a pro-Khalistani organisation allegedly trying to fund the farmer protests. On the earlier occasion on January 12, AG supported this averment raised by the Indian Kisan Union in its application before the court. It claimed that an organisation by the name of Sikhs for Justice, which is banned for anti-India secessionist movement, is financing the agitation.

The Delhi Police in its application further stated that no tractor rally by farmers should be allowed as such a form of protest will malign the nation globally.

“The intervention by this court has been grossly misunderstood. We have not taken charge of the entire issue except one. Should the Supreme Court tell police that you have enough powers under Police Act,” said the bench on Monday.

SG Mehta told the court that when the matter is taken up on Wednesday, the Centre would make detailed arguments on the dignity attached to the constitutional ceremony of Republic Day parade. In its application, the Delhi Police informed the court of the possibility of a tractor march by certain farmer unions in Delhi.

The bench wished to know whether the farmer unions were also being represented in the case. One of the unions, Bhartiya Kisan Union- Lokshakti, informed the bench that it had filed response to the application of Delhi Police and wished to be given permission to hold protest at Ramlila Maidan in the Capital. Another farmer union represented by senior advocate Dushyant Dave was also present during the hearing.

The bench will hear both the sides on Wednesday and could even decide on filling up vacancy created by the recusal by one of the members of the four-member Committee.

Bhupinder Singh Mann (national president, BKU, and All India Kisan Coordination Committee) refused to be part of the court-appointed committee ,leaving just three members on the panel -- Pramod Kumar Joshi, agricultural economist, director for South Asia, International Food Policy Research Institute, Ashok Gulati, agricultural economist and former chairman of the Commission for Agricultural Costs and Prices, and Anil Ghanwat, president, Shetkari Sanghatana.

BKU- Lokshakti in its response before the court demanded the removal of the remaining three members as well alleging their open bias in favour of the laws as made out by their opinions in public domain. It said, “The principle of natural justice is going to get violated by forming these persons as members of the committee...how they will hear all the farmers on equal parameters when they have already supported these three farm laws.” Instead, the farmer union requested for appointment of a former Supreme Court judge along with farm leaders of protesting farmer unions.

The three laws in question, presently stayed by the top court, are -- Farmers’ Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Act, 2020, Essential Commodities (Amendment) Act, 2020 and Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement on Price Assurance and Farm Services Act, 2020.

While staying the three legislations, the court said that this extraordinary step was being taken to encourage farmers bodies to convince their members to get back to their livelihood, both in order to protect their own lives and health and in order to protect the lives and properties of others.

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